Perinatal depression and anxiety are serious mental health problems and are among the leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality worldwide!
Pregnant women are at higher risk for suicidal ideation and behaviours compared to the general population.
Suicide has been identified as one of the major contributors to the global mortality burden and there is a growing concern over the increase in suicidal ideation and behaviour among pregnant women.
Studies in low- and middle-income countries put the rate of maternal death due to suicide at somewhere between 0.65% and 3.55%. In such cases, risk factors include poverty, lack of support, lack of trust in health systems and coexisting mental illnesses.
Suicidal thoughts experienced during pregnancy can continue beyond the initial postpartum period, affecting the well-being of both mother and child.
More about pregnancy and suicidal ideation in our infographic
The negative cycle of mental ill-health and poverty is particularly relevant for women and their infants during the perinatal period. During this time, major life transitions render women more vulnerable to mental illness from social, economic and gender-based perspectives.
Those with the most need for mental health support, have the least access. Overburdened maternal and mental health services have not been able to address adequately this significant unmet need. There have been limited attempts at a programmatic level, to integrate mental health care within maternal care services.
The perinatal period, where women are accessing health services for their obstetric care, presents a unique opportunity to intervene in the event of mental distress. Preventive work involving screening and counselling may have far-reaching impact for women, their offspring and future generations.
Mental health care is a notoriously neglected area – even more so in “healthy” pregnant and postnatal women. The focus on the physical to the detriment of the emotional is particularly felt now against the backdrop of HIV and AIDS. The public health service has been unable to address the mental health needs of women from poorer communities – neither within maternity services nor within mental health services. This is despite a wide body of evidence showing that distress in the mother may have long-lasting physical, cognitive and emotional effects on her children.
The PMHP aims to integrate mental health service routinely, within the primary maternal care environment.
Based at selected government MoU facilities in Cape Town, we offer counselling and support services focused on the emotional wellbeing of pregnant women with a strong focus on postnatal and clinical depression.
Intimate partner violence (IPV) during or before pregnancy is associated with many adverse health outcomes.
Pregnancy-related complications or poor infant health outcomes can arise from direct trauma as well as physiological effects of stress, both of which impact maternal health and fetal growth and development.
Antenatal care can be a key entry point within the health system for many women, particularly in low-resource settings. Interventions to identify violence during pregnancy and offer women support and counselling may reduce the occurrence of violence and mitigate its consequences.
This research will provide much-needed evidence on whether a short counselling intervention delivered by nurses is efficacious and feasible in low-resource settings that have a high prevalence of IPV and HIV.
Source: BMC Health Services ResearchBMC series
Follow the project: BioMed Central
The Royal College of General Practitioners has launched a new
Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit
The resources are designed to support GPs and healthcare professionals to support and deliver the care patients with perinatal mental health conditions need.
Furthermore it contains resources for mothers, fathers and an entire section on family support, self-care and well-being during and after pregnancy. This includes information leaflets for patients, and links to supporting charities and social media groups.
This toolkit offers a comprehensive and holistic approach to tackle the stigma of perinatal mental health problems!
More and more women are sharing their personal story with depression during or after pregnancy.
“Maureen had her first suicidal thought the morning she found out she was pregnant with her first son seven years ago.”
Her documentary Dark Side of the Full Moon
shares her story and the stories of several other women who suffered from postpartum depression.
Rosey is a mum of three, fighter of PND and founder of
#PNDHour She is also considered one of the leading campaigners for improving perinatal mental health services.
Every wednesday everybody can join, follow, and connect with others affected by perinatal mental illness on twitter. She also runs a very successful blog to share her story.
“Amelie suffered from postnatal depression when her son Zenon”
Inspired her story, a nurse and writer is bringing hard-hitting play Friction to the stage.
And there are many more inspiring women sharing their stories and raise awareness about perinatal mental health.
Inspiring compassion that will turn into action and one day every women will receive the mental health care they need.
Members of the Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) presented to delegates at the International Marcé Society Biennial Scientific Meeting in Swansea and the World Congress of Psychiatry in Madrid last month. Here are some highlights and insights from our two presenters:
Presentation by Director, Simone Honikman
Simone was invited to speak about the PMHP as part of a symposium entitled “Born this Way: finding solutions to global challenges in Perinatal Mental Health”. The symposium convenor, Professor Carlos Zubaran, of the University of Western Sydney, had also arranged for speakers from Norway, Spain, Israel and Portugal to present. The PMHP presentation was unique in that our project was able to present solutions to high levels of depression and anxiety in contexts where resources are limited. The symposium was well attended, generated vibrant discussion as well as potential connections for future collaborations.
Read the abstract of the presentation ‘Maternal mental health and health service design‘ by Simone Honikman here: MMH_abstract
Presentation by Research Associate, Thandi van Heyningen
Thandi’s presentation was about screening for maternal depression and anxiety in a low-resource primary care antenatal setting in South Africa. She spoke about the use of various screening instruments as well as potential psychosocial risk factors. The results of this research from Hanover Park, have shown that a short, binary-scoring screening instrument that is easy to administer and score, performs as well as longer, more complex screening tools in detecting maternal anxiety and depression. The Whooley depression screen, which consists of two questions about mood symptoms and a third “help” question shows promise as a screening tool for the early detection of maternal depression and anxiety in these settings.
Read the abstract of the presentation: ‘Development of a mental health screening instrument for low-resource, primary-care antenatal settings in South Africa’ here: MentalHealthScreening_Abstract
We are pleased to share our 2014 Mid-Year report with our partners, friends and supporters.
This reports highlights some of the key achievements in our four programmes:
Teaching and Training,
Advocacy and Communications.
The Maternal Mental Health Alliance launched its #everyonesbusiness campaign
on Tuesday, 8 July 2014
Pregnant women and new mothers in many parts of the world do not have access to specialist mental health services, potentially leaving them and their babies at risk.
The PMHP is proudly promoting the #everyonesbusiness campaign and broadens the call to tackle maternal mental health disparity globally!
Find out more about the campaign on everyonesbusiness website
How to develop a maternal mental health service? Read our guide for facility-based health workers on the PMHP resource pages here
Join the `Circles of Support` advocacy and fundraising campaign of the Perinatal Mental Health Project. You will be delighted by a range of performances by friends of the organisation such as the hilarious Nik Rabinowitz, enchanting singer Aviva Pelham, comedienne Anne Hirsch, iKapa Dance Theatre and other talented artists.
Grab a ticket for only R150 on Computicket
join us on 16 August @ 7.30 pm
at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town
All proceeds from the ticket sales will go to support UCT`s award-winning Perinatal Mental Health Project, which works to develop and advocate for accessible maternal mental health care that can be delivered effectively at scale in low resource settings.